Tallahassee "Drops The Box"

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UPDATE by: James Buechele
January 28, 2015

The Tallahassee city commission has decided to drop the box by a 3-2 vote Wednesday evening.

Dennis Smith knows his past has haunted him as a convicted felon. Looking for work was hard despite serving his time.

"To say the process to this point was difficult would be an understatement," said Smith.

Now, Smith is an account manager at a local processing company.

"I know what it's like to be dejected just basically on the sole reasons of being an ex-felon."

That's why Smith spoke at Wednesday's city commission meeting in support of banning the box for applicants of city jobs. Those applying have to check a box saying if they have been convicted of a felony.

"This discriminates and it discriminates against black people," said Tallahassee NAACP chapter president Dale Landry.

Many people spoke in support of the ban including the biggest proponent, Mayor Andrew Gillum.

"All of the fail-safe conditions are still in place," said Gillum. "There is no legitimate argument as to why anybody could be against this on the merits of what I've heard tonight."

The motion passed 3-2 with commissioners Scott Maddox and Gil Ziffer voting against it. Their reasoning: the city has hired people that have check the box in the past.

"We're going to look past that," said Ziffer. We are, cause we want to help people out."

"So we don't ask someone up front, they apply and we find that they're denied based on the nature job relatedness," said Maddox.

Smith says he's happy that Tallahassee is making this decision.

"It's not a race thing. It's not a gender thing. It's a humanitarian thing. It's doing what is right for the greater good of everyone."

Background checks will still be done on those finalists for city jobs.

By: Chris Gros
January 14, 2015

Tallahassee, FL - It's called “drop the box” and it has city officials split.

The policy would erase a question on the city's job application inquiring applicants about their criminal history. Under drop the box the section on the application asking “have you ever been convicted of a felony or a first degree misdemeanor?” would be erased from the application. Instead questions about potential criminal history could then be asked in an interview. Finalists would then be put through a background check and asked to complete a drug test.

But at today’s city commission meeting, some questioned the policy.

"If we are currently discriminating then we need to address that within our own rules and regulations and our own training of our HR folks if we are not then I see no reason to remove and change our application to have less disclosure," said City Commissioner Scott Maddox

We asked City Manager Anita-Favors Thompson if applicants would still have background checks completed.

"Right but we always complete that, so that is not the issue of not checking and doing the criminal history, we do those anyway so even if you did not disclose it," said Favors-Thompson.

Mayor Andrew Gillum was unable to comment after the meeting. Gillum released a statement, which in part read:

"I strongly believe that people who have paid their debt to society ought to be given a chance to become productive members of their community."

Applicants applying for public safety positions would be exempt.

The policy is an administrative decision and doesn’t require a vote for approval. However, it’s been tabled until January 28th so that city commissioners can receive more information on the policy and its effects.

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